A new, easy-to-perform method for detecting both seasonal influenza A virus and the emerging H1N1 swine-derived influenza A virus in human clinical samples offers a fast, sensitive, and cost-effective diagnostic test that runs on standard laboratory equipment. This timely and broadly applicable molecular technique is described in a new article.
The recent emergence and global spread of a new swine flu virus highlights the urgent need for a reliable diagnostic test that can discriminate the H1N1 influenza virus from other strains and can be readily implemented in clinical testing laboratories. The molecular strategy described in the article in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases is based on proven and widely used Real-Time, Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) technology.
The authors of the report describe the development of a new molecular probe that improves on the existing PCR assay used to diagnose seasonal influenza and enables detection of both the seasonal and H1N1 influenza A viruses in the same patient sample using a simple test protocol. Laetitia Ninove and colleagues from Université de la Méditerranée and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Marseille, France), Hôpitaux de Marseille, CEH Oxford (UK), and EHESP School of Public Health (Rennes, France) provide data to support the sensitivity and effectiveness of the SYBR Green RT-PCR one-step assay used for screening clinical samples to detect the presence of influenza A virus. In positive samples this is followed by the addition of two probes that are able to discriminate between the seasonal and swine H1N1 viruses to yield a definitive diagnosis.
Early, accurate identification of infected individuals will expedite appropriate antiviral therapy and enhance control and containment efforts. Furthermore, this new molecular test specifically amplifies and characterizes the viral genetic material, enabling rapid detection of new viral strains as they evolve. Using these genetic sequence data and making minor alterations to the PCR primers used in the assay, the test could be easily modified to detect newly emerging viral variants, including avian influenza strains.
"Early recognition of new influenza strains is vitally important for implementing effective control measures to limit spread. This cost-effective, comprehensive, and rapid test is a highly significant contribution to diagnostics that will greatly enhance our capacity to deal with future influenza outbreaks," says Stephen Higgs BSc, PhD, FRES, Editor-in-Chief of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, and Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases, Sealy Center for Vaccine Development and WHO Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.
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